In my previous post on the issue of prostitution, and how we all pay for sex, I argued that I am fine with the right of individuals engaging in sexual activities in exchange for money. I stated that “I see nothing wrong with such straight forward arrangements as they are agreements made by consenting adults”.
This has led some to ask me my thoughts on the issue of sexual favors in work places that are not sexually oriented businesses. That is to say should one be allowed to offer his or her subordinates promotions, raises or even the privilege of keeping one’s job in exchange for sexual favors. Currently this is illegal throughout the developed world, and to some extent it makes since that it should be. Most of us find such actions to be morally deplorable.
On some level most of us realize that the economy is largely stacked in favor of employers over employees and to many of us it makes sense that the ability of employers to abuse this privilege be curtailed. While agreeing that state imposed restrictions on such practices is seemingly at odds with the voluntarist mindset I typically advocate, it does seem to me that the case can be made that in an economy where the state has largely rigged the economy in favor of employers, through such things as regulations that increase the cost of starting one’s own businesses, outlawing some forms of business, imposing license regimes on others, and greatly limiting the forms of legal bargaining organized labor can engage in, it does make sense to limit the extent that employers can take unfair advantage of employees. I am not advocating this position so much as acknowledging that such a case can be made.
It may be the case that such laws would not be necessary in something like the ideal free market environment or some sort of other ideal voluntarist society, where workers would arguably have more negotiating power than would-be bosses and managers. But we do not exist in such an environment and I do not dismiss the possibility that some forms of state intervention may actually necessitate or at the very least justify others. For example, I have argued else where that government licensed pharmacists should not be allowed to discriminate or refuse service to any customers, since such pharmacists are part of a state granted monopoly on a crucial service. Ideally we should want to rid ourselves of the primary intervention, which is the granting of the monopoly itself, thereby making the secondary intervention (the restrictions on the ability to discriminate against some customers) irrelevant.
The same is true in the area of sexual favors in the work place. We should first and foremost seek to rid ourselves of the primary interventions that force the vast majority of the population to rely on what is now considered conventional employment, thereby making the secondary interventions (laws for bidding sexual favors between bosses and subordinates) irrelevant. After all, in an environment where jobs and opportunities for self-employment are easy to come by, employees will be much less willing to put up with any form of unwanted bullshit from employers, and that would be rather nice.
Then again, it could be the case that the bad publicity associated with being caught sexually harassing or demanding sexual favors is enough to keep employers in line, but in an economy so heavily characterized by insecurity for the average worker, I have my doubts. Of course in the days of the internet, it is much easier to spread the word of abuses, so it is a tool that will hopefully become increasingly relevant in the future. That said, I could completely off base about all this and perhaps a good case could be made that in the here and now such restrictions are either not necessary, unenforceable or problematic in some other respect. If you think this is or is not the case feel free to let me know why you think this in the comment section.